It’s time for Scott Reynolds’ 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game.

Tampa Bay lost in Los Angeles to a hungry and hostile Rams team, 34-24. That loss snapped a 10-game winning streak. Quarterback Tom Brady passed for over 400 yards with a passing touchdown and a rushing score, but it was the Bucs defense allowing four Matthew Stafford touchdown strikes that was the cause for concern in Tampa Bay’s first loss of the season. It didn’t help that cornerback Jamel Dean suffered a knee injury in the first quarter, either.

2 BIG STATEMENTS

STATEMENT 1: Don’t Blame Bowles For Bucs’ Loss To Rams

Blame Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles all you want for the Rams hanging 34 points on Tampa Bay’s defense in a 34-24 loss in Los Angeles. What did you want him to do? Blitz more?

Bowles’ Bucs are already the top blitzing team in the league by far at 45 percent. The league average is 23 percent. The problem is that the defensive line isn’t winning its one-on-ones up front, and the blitzing linebackers and/or defensive backs, are not getting home. They are either missing the quarterback altogether or are being picked up by running backs.

Bucs HC Bruce Arians

Bucs HC Bruce Arians – Photo by: USA Today

“They just blocked us,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “They blocked us. Joe [Tryon-Shoyinka] came through clean a couple of times. [Matthew Stafford] got the ball out. The times that we did beat them, they were quick or some other thing that the ball came out quick. So, we didn’t get the sack.”

Will Gholston did get the Bucs’ lone sack with a few minutes left in the game, but Tampa Bay’s lack of success against L.A.’s offensive line shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The Bucs didn’t record a single sack against the Rams last year – and that was with Jason Pierre-Paul, who missed Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury.

So far, the Bucs have an embarrassing three sacks in three games. They’re on pace for 16 sacks this season. Don’t worry, they’ll get way more than that. But there is some cause for concern.

I asked Arians last week point blank if the Bucs were concerned about the lack of sacks and if there was not as much winning one-on-one battles up front.

“They’re winning a bunch,” Arians said last Monday. “Vita [Vea] is killing his guys, it’s just he’s knocking them into the quarterback and not sacking him. I think we’re getting a ton of pressure. We knocked Dak [Prescott] down a bunch of times. Knocking them down sometimes is as good as sacking them. They feel it too, but yeah, I’d like to see some more sacks.”

I think Arians said that with his fingers crossed. Now the lack of the pass rush from the Bucs defensive front is being exposed after Sunday’s loss. By the way, Tampa Bay had 12 sacks through the first three games last year.

When Bowles calls blitzes, it isn’t marrying up well with coverage. Cornerback Jamel Dean has been less than stellar this year, but he’s more talented that Ross Cockrell and Dee Delaney. Losing Dean to a knee injury hurts because the Bucs essentially have one starting-caliber cornerback on the team right now and that’s Carlton Davis III, who is playing well unless he’s getting picked by his own man in coverage (linebacker Devin White on DeSean Jackson’s 40-yard catch-and-run from the slot in the third quarter).

You don’t like Bowles’ soft zone coverage? Do you remember Cockrell getting torched by Jackson on a vertical route in the first half – only to have the ball be underthrown due to pressure by Vita Vea, who hit Matthew Stafford on the play?

Rams WR DeSean Jackson

Rams WR DeSean Jackson – Photo by: USA Today

Jackson, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Van Jefferson are all more talented players than Cockrell and Delaney. That’s just a fact. Davis is just one man – and he can only guard one receiver at a time.

The Bucs got out-talented by the Rams receivers, which are the best group Tampa Bay will face all year. Sunday’s loss was about the Jimmies and the Joes – not the X’s and the O’s. Bowles’ hands were tied. That too is a fact.

“Yeah, that’s the pass rush,” Arians said. “You can’t sit back there and hold the ball. We’ve got to get home. We’ve got to get home better when rushing four and do a better job of covering seven routes.”

Arians said that some communication issues plagued the secondary on Sunday, and that happens when players like Delaney and Edwards, who are backups, are thrust into the starting lineup to play with defensive backs they don’t usually play with. That’s what happened on Jackson’s 75-yard touchdown when there was a miscommunication between Davis and Edwards, who slipped as he turned to run when Jackson blew by him.

“Busted coverage,” Arians said. “Just totally busted the coverage. Lack of communication and they didn’t get the call to each other. That’s what young guys do.

“It’s a lack of communication and a lack of making plays. As I said, the front four didn’t get there. We got one sack on the book, late. But we’ve got to do a better job with the front four getting home.”

With teams successfully chipping outside linebackers with backs and tight ends and the Bucs defensive tackles not getting enough consistent pressure or push up the middle, the front four just aren’t doing enough to help a hobbled secondary.

Yes, Bowles, who is the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the league, needs to figure out ways to manufacture some sacks with some different/better blitz schemes and hide/minimize the current deficiencies in the secondary. But he needs better individual play from his players, too.

STATEMENT 2: Bucs Defensive Stars Not Showing Up

Every great defense has at least one playmaker at every level. Go back to the 2002 Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, which had Pro Bowlers in Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice up front, Derrick Brooks at the linebacker level and Ronde Barber and John Lynch in the secondary.

Bucs ILB Devin White

Bucs ILB Devin White – Photo by: USA Today

Three of those guys are the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Barber deserves to be next. An argument could also be made for Rice to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.

Tampa Bay’s 2020 defense wasn’t as dominant as the 2002 unit was during its Super Bowl run, although it played really well in the postseason. There were takeaways and sacks aplenty during the playoffs and the Super Bowl, and there was at least one big-time playmaker at every level.

Up front it was outside linebackers Jason Pierre-Paul, the Bucs’ lone Pro Bowler, and Shaquil Barrett. Pierre-Paul had a pair of sacks in Green Bay, and Barrett led the Bucs in postseason sacks with four – three against the Packers and one in the Super Bowl.

Devin White was the playmaker at linebacker with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Those were in addition to his double-digit tackles against New Orleans, Green Bay and Kansas City.

In the secondary, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting had three big interceptions in three straight games. Rookie safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. had a huge, game-changing forced fumble at New Orleans and an interception against Kansas City in the Super Bowl.

So where is the star power on Tampa Bay’s defense in 2021? It’s nowhere to be found from those players so far.

After recording three sacks and two interceptions in the regular season last year, Winfield has yet to record any sacks or takeaways. The same can be said of White, who had nine sacks last year, which was second on the team. White looks like he’s regressed this year in coverage and is less effective as a blitzer.

Bucs S Antoine Winfield, Jr. and Rams TE Tyler Higbee

Bucs S Antoine Winfield, Jr. and Rams TE Tyler Higbee – Photo by: USA Today

Pierre-Paul has yet to record a splash play, while Murphy-Bunting is out for likely half the season after dislocating his elbow in the first quarter in Week 1. And Murphy-Bunting had a rough quarter of coverage before getting injured, too.

Barrett, who is making an average of $17 million per season after being the Bucs’ franchise player last year, has one sack and one interception in the first two weeks, but couldn’t get to Matthew Stafford on Sunday.

If the Bucs defense wants to be known as the Grave Diggers, the team’s stars have to stop digging their own graves on Sundays. It’s that simple. Tampa Bay’s stars need to shine – and they’re not.

2 PROBING QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: Will The Bucs Defense Rebound Next Week At New England?

It better bounce back. Not only does Tampa Bay face a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones, the Patriots’ first-round pick, but New England’s receiving corps of Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne is far less formidable than the collection of talent the Bucs just faced in Los Angeles.

The Bucs started the season slow last year with four sacks in the first two weeks before recording six sacks in Denver in Week 3 against young quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien. Tampa Bay’s defense also recorded a safety and had two interceptions in that 28-10 Mile High win.

Jones has two touchdown passes, three interceptions and has been sacked six times in three games. This could be the reprieve game a hungry and embarrassed Bucs defense needs to get well. And more help could be on the way, according to Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard.

Not making excuses for the Bucs defense at all, but it has faced Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford in three consecutive weeks. Those quarterbacks certainly aren’t slouches. If Jones plays up to their level this Sunday in New England, then it’s definitely time to sound the alarm in Tampa Bay.

QUESTION 2: Can The Bucs Win Without Scoring 30 Points Or More?

Recent history suggests “no” – but that’s not really the case. Prior to Sunday’s loss Tampa Bay had won nine straight games scoring at least 30 points or more dating back to a 31-27 win in Atlanta in Week 15. In reality, the Bucs only needed 28 points to win that game.

Bucs QB Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

And the Bucs defense didn’t allow 30 points or more in any of those nine straight wins. In fact, Tampa Bay’s 31-29 win over Dallas was the team’s closest margin of victory.

But that was then and this is now. Tampa Bay is allowing 29.3 points per game on defense through three weeks. So yes, the Bucs offense will have to continue to score 30 points or more to prevail – until the defense can play better.

Yet 30 points wouldn’t have won the game on Sunday. The Bucs would have needed 35 points to topple the Rams, which have a good defense.

I just don’t think L.A. is a good matchup for Tampa Bay. It wasn’t last year in a 27-24 win by the Rams at Raymond James Stadium, and now L.A. has a better quarterback under center in Matthew Stafford.

2 BOLD PREDICTIONS

PREDICTION 1. Bucs Look To Go Streaking Again

Sunday’s loss in L.A. caused three Tampa Bay streaks to come to an end. The 34-24 defeat snapped a 10-game winning streak, and the Bucs’ consecutive game streak with 30 points or more also came to a halt. So did Tampa Bay’s eight-game winning streak on the road, dating back to last October. All streaks include last year’s postseason.

So it’s time for the Bucs to go streaking again. No, Tampa Bay won’t win 10 more games in a row this year. But winning the next four at least seems reasonable. The Bucs travel to New England this week and then host the Dolphins on October 10. A trip to Philly on Thursday night won’t be easy, but that game is winnable. Tampa Bay then comes home to face a Bears team that just isn’t very good, before a trek to New Orleans on Halloween. The Bucs should be 6-1 when they face the Saints.

PREDICTION 2. Brady, Bucs Bounce Back Big Time In Prime Time

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The 1-2 Patriots aren’t playing good football right now, and the Bucs are coming off a humbling loss to a very good Rams team in what could be a preview of this year’s NFC Championship Game. New England’s only win was a 25-6 victory over the hapless New York Jets. The Patriots lost at home to the Dolphins, 17-16, and the Saints, 28-13.

The Patriots defense has played well, but won’t be able to do much to slow down Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who is coming off a poor game in Los Angeles. Both players will look to show out on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in their return to New England. New England just doesn’t have the firepower to match Tampa Bay’s offense.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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eaustinyoung
4 months ago

You’re right it’s definitely not Bowles trying to rush 4 with backup corners 10 yards off the play. Must’ve been someone else doing it.

SDBucfan
Reply to  eaustinyoung
3 months ago

Bowles’ Bucs are already the top blitzing team in the league by far at 45 percent.

Do you think we should Blitz 100% of the time? Or what are your recommendations here?

eaustinyoung
Reply to  SDBucfan
3 months ago

Really curious what you think I typed out since I said nothing about blitzing constantly. Maybe stop putting these scrub corners in positions they can’t play. Wild thought, I’m sure.

Naplesfan
Reply to  eaustinyoung
3 months ago

Idiot. You put in fourth stringers because your second and third stringers are out with injuries.

What, was BA supposed to go out there and line up as a cornerback?

SMH cubed

eaustinyoung
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 months ago

Very curious which one of these backups you think can play 10 yards off the receiver and be successful. I await your patronizing educational response.

Naplesfan
Reply to  eaustinyoung
3 months ago

Yeah, the nerve of Bowles to start backups when his starters were out with injuries. Against the best receiving corps in the league outside of our receivers.

What the hell was he thinking, anyway

SMH

Last edited 3 months ago by Naplesfan
Eddie
Reply to  eaustinyoung
3 months ago

We knew we are going in with back up DB, what was our defensive strategy to face the Rams. If not the coaching staff then who?

drdneast
Reply to  eaustinyoung
3 months ago

Is it possible to share the saame hallucination.

MWD
MWD
Reply to  eaustinyoung
3 months ago

I agree with you – our secondary is still the weak spot on this team even with our starters out there- this was known regardless during the off-season and we should have added at the least one good veteran corner to the defense- one- our secondary is very young and still inexperienced and two- gives more depth and a leader on the back end of our defense- now here we are with injuries and we are scrambling to dial up Richard Sherman!

Buc stops here
4 months ago

The key here is the injuries. Last year, Tampa was pretty clear of injuries. This year, not so much. The Bucs went in to game #3 without Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jason Pierre-Paul, Antonio Brown, long snapper Zach Trine, and Kevin Minter. During the game they lost Jamel Dean – who didn’t return – and Rob Gronkowski who was clearly less than 100% for the second half. Now you have to add most likely Giovani Benard who was hurt on the last offensive play of the game. When you have lost 6 starters three games in, and probably at least 7 going 4 games in,… Read more »

Horse
3 months ago

Spot on Scott! Defensive injuries are hurting us right now. Not sure if McClendon has anything left in the tank; Roches isn’t far from it either. Why not give K. Davis a shot, he’s stronger/faster than those two. White and David played average and that’s not good enough! Might as well see what he has in a real game?

Joseph
Reply to  Horse
3 months ago

White played less than average he is a liability in coverage still

Benjamin
3 months ago

Honestly with these inexperienced CB’s they need to blitz less and use the schemes they ran Vs. the Chiefs. 2 deep safeties so these CBs have help over top and know it is not all on them. In the Rams game there were too many times WRs were running clean down the field. We are lucky they missed on some of those deep passes because it could have easily been 50 to 24 or even more. I blame Bowles because he has been calling a terrible gameplan with this injured secondary that was ALREADY suspect with all 11 starters so… Read more »

Eddie
Reply to  Benjamin
3 months ago

Right on. Great illustration of the coaching problem with some numbers

fredster
3 months ago

Plenty blame to go around yesterday imo. Pass rush at times but too I aren’t getting lots sacks like last year partially due to the crazy amount screens being used on Bucs. Love to see stat on that compared to last year. To me you do that when you are afraid of pass rush. LB’s and and stars not making splash plays, poor communication and execution in secondary, the O line didn’t look very good either. Granted Rams one best teams in front but still. It was not a good showing by o line at all. RB’s looked lackluster. I… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by fredster
Naplesfan
3 months ago

Scott writes up a well meaning and essentially correct post that unfortunately brings out the idiots like blow flies on piles of shit.

Captain Sly
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 months ago

Funny! But also about sums it up.

Madman
3 months ago

Blame it on injuries if you want to but that doesn’t explain why Shaq, White, and Winfield are playing so poorly.

76Buc
3 months ago

The only graves being dug are their own.

Last edited 3 months ago by 76Buc
twspin
3 months ago

Rams deserved to win. The brought it and played harder. Their HC was like on fire and full of excitement. Our Defense simply did not show up..PERIOD. Not sure if we would have won even with JPP. Yes, Hire Mr Sherman or anybody else who can get it done in the secondary. Because teams are takin notes. We should bounce back well against the Pats..I hope. But Don’t slight the Rams. They were the better team yesterday.

surferdudes
3 months ago

Maybe give Pat O’Conner some snaps, he had a good preseason, should at least play instead of McLendon. Also let’s see what Davis has. We don’t have a true 3 tech next to Vea, maybe he can fill that roll.

BucHarbour
3 months ago

I honestly think this loss is one they needed to take. Knock them off that pedestal and remind them they need to play smart and execute properly. Even in this game they beat themselves with some dumb penalties and not making some plays that were there to make. Imagine if Dean just holds onto that pick. That alone could have led to a different outcome. They need to know that every team is going to bring their best every week, and top tier teams are going to beat them if they don’t do the same. One thing they need to… Read more »

jshumaker
3 months ago

tal vez senor brady tiene los contestas. me gustar escuchar que el dice

compewterpirate
3 months ago

Undoubtedly the front four, even in the absence of JPP, must take a considerable amount of responsibility for the lack of defensive pressure on Stafford and clearly we were hampered by a beat-up secondary, nevertheless, as you alluded to yourself … “Bowles … needs to figure out ways to manufacture some sacks with some different/better blitz schemes and hide/minimize the current deficiencies in the secondary”. Exactly! The best coaches have the ability to extemporize during a game when their basic strategies or preconceived tactics are not working, Bowles clearly has the tactical acumen and expertise to effect such changes, or… Read more »

scubog
3 months ago

Maybe, just maybe the Rams were the better team on Sunday. Perhaps there is a bit of Super Bowl champion over-confidence. From my novice observation, there was very little emotion from “the good guys” and the Rams and Sean McVay were as amped up as I’ve ever seen. Bucs never appeared to generate or sustain any momentum. One step forward, two steps back was the tale the whole game. As many observed, there were sure a lot of our defenders who played the game without being seen. In some ways I think this is just what the team needed. Perhaps… Read more »